The Dead Bin
by Gary Clifton
Davis McCoy, a veteran detective on the Dallas police force, is relegated to the “Dead Bin,” a kind of “doghouse” reserved for cops who have annoyed their superior officers. When McCoy investigates a series of bizarre homicides, he has to work his way past hostile management as well as the criminal underworld. Even the most hardened veterans of law enforcement will be amazed by what he finds.
Chapter 25: Gifts from California
Saturday is normally a day off, but if the trail is hot and you’re deep in the garbage dump, work Saturday and screw off next Thursday... and maybe Friday, too.
I tanked up on coffee and grease at Slim’s Finest Diner and read the newspaper. The waitress, Heavy Henrietta, gave me the “moon eye” several times. Damn, it’s tough being an aging sex symbol.
I glanced down the street and, for an instant, thought I saw a guy in a dark sports car looking at me through his side glass with binoculars. A passing bus blocked the view. I looked again, and he was gone. Paranoia is a powerful force. Had he been there or not? If I catch the guy, he isn’t going to like it worth a nickel.
The Police Department lobby was nearly as chaotic as on a weekday. I shoved my way through the freaks and violence to the basement stairs. My in-box held solid information.
The lady in California had followed through. The hit was a triple: The servo I’d already identified — and two more — had been shipped a year earlier to Wendel Penski at an address on Oak Lawn Avenue.
The computer spat out info: arrests for passing worthless checks, shoplifting, male prostitution, and an outstanding warrant of arrest for trespassing. Wendel would be fair game if we could find him.
Then I recalled the Resource, Inc., files. The employee who had retired and then died was Rita Penski. I dug through the records and found the company owner’s home telephone number. He answered on the first ring.
“Yeah, Mrs. Penski worked for me for years. You oughta know that. I gave you the damned records.”
“Family: what do you know of them?”
“Uh... couple of no-good sons. One was some kinda sex pervert, worked the streets selling sex. Got huge add-on boobs. Matter of fact, the other brother was a male prostitute, too, I think. Broke their mother’s heart. One of ’em rode in rodeos... or maybe swept out horse crap.”
“Ever meet them?”
“Uh... no, not that I recall. But she was a fine old lady. Got cancer and didn’t last six months. Hell, I paid for her funeral.”
Another pass at the computer disclosed Wendel Penski’s older brother, Norman Penski. He also had a lengthy record of arrest for nickel-and-dime crimes, including a couple for prostitution. The last known address of record in DPD files for both brothers was on Oak Lawn in near north Dallas, the same address the California firm had just faxed to me.
Wendel Penski’s apartment address, a rundown operation on the south end of Oak Lawn, was alive and well on Saturday morning. Two same-sex couples holding hands strolled past. A kid with long blond hair, wearing only a purple thong, slid by on a motorbike with a matching purple cape billowing behind him.
“Wendel was evicted last month for nonpayment of rent,” said the manager, a thin, plain female about forty, in male clothes and short hair.
“His brother, Norman, also used this address, Ms...?”
“Smith.” She smiled. “Yes, Norman lived here, too, until about a year ago. He was always sort of an unsettled, wanderer type. Left without saying a word or taking his clothes.”
“What did they do for a living?” I already had a pretty good head start on their livelihood.
She studied the countertop for several seconds. “Well, Detective... I’m sure you’re aware this neighborhood is heavily into alternative life styles. Nearly all tenants in this complex are gay. Wendel and Norman, I’m afraid, were well beyond the usual gay lifestyle.”
“Can you elaborate, please?”
She sighed. “Norman was heavily into male prostitution: dating men for sex. Wendel did — still does, actually — work the street in female clothes. He’s had breast augmentation: boob implants. Blocky little blonde person with huge breasts and never without a long blonde wig.
“He tended to be a... uh, rather volatile tenant. No matter what you think of us, we don’t condone the streetwalker thing.” Her face said she was genuine and truthful.
“I don’t think anything about you. Can I see the apartment?”
“The apartment has been scoured, stripped, and repainted. There’s nothing there, but we’re required by law to retain property left behind for one month.” She motioned to me to follow her, locked the office door, and we walked to a storage building at the rear of the property. Inside, she pointed to a large cardboard box labeled “Wendel” in black marker.
Plenty of evidence was crammed in the box to indicate the Penskis were not pleasant people. I looked at the manager. She nodded. “It’s all abandoned property; goes to the landfill in two more days. Help yourself.”
A huge, black bra, one strap broken, lay atop the contents. I tossed the bra into a spare box. Find Wendel and we’d probably find a fit.
I also kept a small length of rope, a circular loop tied in the end. “Piggin’ Loop,” I said and smiled at the manager, sharing a bit of trivia I’d borrowed from Dr. Rosetti in the morgue. “Either of these boys work in a rodeo?” I already knew the answer.
“Norman, I think, was some sort of cowboy or western performer. Injured, I think. He had a slight limp, left leg or foot.”
A torn-out page from the American Rodeo Gazette caught my eye. “Popular Calf Roper Penski Seriously Injured — Rodeo Future in Doubt” the headline read. I put it in my evidence box.
“Any idea where I might find Wendel?”
“Heard he works around Fair Park, on the street. You didn’t get that from me, although he owes me two months’ rent in case he wants to come out and settle up.”
I thanked the laconic manager and drove away.
* * *
Maggs answered her cell on the first buzz.
“Wendel Penski is also Wendy LaPenn,” I said. “We’ve been looking for a woman. Arrest records will always show him to be male.”
“That’s good. We’ve ID’d another hooker. Only ten thousand to go.”
“He’s a he-she female impersonator. His name was on the back of Grifford’s card. He’s Wendel Penski, the same guy who bought the Servos used in Stick’s bombing. Except he bought three.”
“How the hell... So he’s gay?”
“Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. California company sent me the record. I’m gonna troll around Fair Park this afternoon. Heard Wendel — or Wendi, if you will — works that area as a hooker. Curious how his name got on Grifford’s card in a dead girl’s closet?”
I hadn’t yet told her where I got the card. “I’ll explain.”
“Hey fool, I’ll get dressed and meet you. My boys are with their father this weekend. Saturday be damned, I’ll betcha Harper’s gonna want some of that action, too. I’ll call his fat butt.”
She hung up and I went by the motor pool to check out a so-called surveillance car, a battered Cutlass.
Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton